Thursday, January 1, 2009
It's New Year's Day and the traditional southern food for today is black-eyed peas, but we are making them with an Indian twist, with lots of layers of spices. I am using a recipe from Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran. I have used this book so much in the last few years that it is full of stains on my favorite pages. I think a really well-loved cookbook is liberally spotted with stains, and this book is my prime example. I once wrote a fan letter to Suvir Saran, and I squealed like a giddy teen when he wrote back to me--the next day! Since then, I always write a fan letter when I feel the urge.
These black-eyed peas taste so wonderful because of the layering of spices. Cloves, whole peppercorn, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, dried chillies, cumin seeds and bay leaves are sauteed in oil first. Then minced fresh ginger goes into the mix, then chopped onion. The onion is cooked until it is all caramelized, then more spices go in! Garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Then comes pureed tomato and, after a bit of simmering a sauce is born!
A sauce that smells so amazing that you have to crack open the wine a little early just to stave off your hunger.
Finally, the guest of honor is added. Black-eyed peas that have been soaked overnight. Then lots of water to cover, and a nice long simmer. This thickens up beautifully into a stew-like consistency.
When the beans are cooked and tender, add a healthy dose of garam masala. You can purchase garam masala at any Indian grocer--it's a specific blend of powdered dried roasted spices--or you can make your own like my excellent boyfriend does for us! I love having a curry snob in the house.
Last but not least, a big ol' dollop of plain yogurt goes in at the end. I like the Greek Fage brand. It is really thick and rich, more like yogurt on performance enhancing drugs. Good heavens, you'll want to smack your own ass when you taste these black-eyed peas.
I attempted to make naan to go with the legumes. This was my second attempt at naan bread, and though I wouldn't call it a resounding success, it was tasty and we ate it! The really yummy naan I've had in Indian restaurants is a flatbread that is thin, yet light and springy and pliable. Mine was thin enough, but didn't have the springy stretchy quality I love. I'm still working on it. This was the dough before it rose, except an hour later there was not so much rising going on.
We rolled it thin, plastered it with melted butter and minced garlic and baked it in a very hot oven. I'm giving it a 65.
Overall, this was a delicious New Year's Day dish and we ate it with gusto.
Happy 2009, everybody!